Astros: Jeff Luhnow interview offers little new information

Sep 27, 2019; Anaheim, CA, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2019; Anaheim, CA, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /
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We didn’t learn much from Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow’s interview.

It was a much-anticipated interview that aired Monday night on KPRC-TV in Houston, as former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow sat down to tell his side of the story in relation to the team’s cheating scandal. If you missed it, check out our recap of the main points. My reaction to it is sort of “meh” in that we didn’t really learn much.

The majority of the interview reeked of Luhnow trying to clear his own name. It’s pretty obvious his intent was to portray himself in as positive a light as possible in an effort to set himself up for more job opportunities. I certainly don’t blame the man, as most people would do the same.

I’m not going to pretend to know whether he was being entirely truthful or not. A lot of what he said made sense, though in the end it is difficult to believe that, as the GM, he knew nothing of what was happening under him. It’s possible, of course, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily probable.

Investigation Issues

But if you can get past all of the “I didn’t know what was going on,” Luhnow paints an interesting picture of MLB’s investigation. He said he turned his phone over to the investigators and that they went through all of his communications and interviewed many people, none of whom claimed he knew about the cheating. He also said he provided ample evidence in his favor that appears to have been largely ignored.

With respect to everyone’s favorite commissioner, Luhnow indicated that Rob Manfred essentially had his mind made up from the beginning that it would be the GM and manager who’d take the fall, and that players and ownership would not be punished. So the investigation, more or less, was about finding enough to justify a suspension.

Apr 3, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred joins Houston Astros owner Jim Crane as he presents a ring to manager AJ Hinch (14) during the World Series ring ceremony at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred joins Houston Astros owner Jim Crane as he presents a ring to manager AJ Hinch (14) during the World Series ring ceremony at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports /

“Major League Baseball had to deliver a punishment that was perceived as severe to the other clubs,” Luhnow said. “The Dodgers, and other clubs, but I know the Dodgers for sure, were adamant about some big punishments. And they wanted the manager, and they wanted the general manager to go down in this scandal. And they got it.”

In Luhnow’s account, Manfred wasn’t necessarily trying to uncover the truth, nor was he trying to get to the bottom of a scandal that, as we now know, was just the tip of the iceberg. “The goal of the investigation was to deliver punishments that Rob could feel good about and that would calm the panic,” he said.

Unfortunately, as we all know, it didn’t calm the panic. Many fans claimed the punishments weren’t nearly severe enough, though most of their ire was directed toward the players. If people are still angry about the players not getting punished, they should take that up with Manfred and the players union.

Woe Is Me

That’s about all the worthwhile information to take from this interview, though. The rest of it is basically Luhnow claiming to have no knowledge of what was going on. With respect to the sign stealing, he blamed the people in the video room, the coaches and the players. On the Brandon Taubman incident, he blamed the PR, marketing and legal departments for putting out the initial statement.

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There’s plenty of blame to heap on those parties, of course, so Luhnow’s assertions are not without merit. But his entire mission, and essentially the entire interview, was him trying to wash his hands of the scandal and claim none of it was his fault. Again, I don’t necessarily blame him since he wants to continue his career, but I doubt this interview will change anyone’s mind about him.

Most people in the sport know that illegal sign stealing was not confined to the Astros, and those people are likely to have at least some interest in hiring Luhnow. He could be running, or at least be part of, a baseball operations department next year. No one denies what a great job he did as Astros GM, as he built a perennial contender from the ground up.

But it is interesting to note that the Dodgers were the most vocal about making sure Luhnow and AJ Hinch went down for this. Their fans and players have been some of the angriest about this scandal and have done a great deal of whining and virtue-signaling over it, and of course we know Manfred wasn’t going to defy one of his sport’s biggest blue blood franchises. If the Dodgers wanted Luhnow and Hinch gone, they were going to get it.

But we shouldn’t be surprised by that at all. This is who Manfred is and it’s how he operates. If there’s any doubt as to the fact that he turned the Astros into the sacrificial lamb to try and save face, Luhnow’s comments seem to confirm that even more.

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